Judge Eric Profancik wishes Death would just take a holiday, already.
Our review of The Final Destination, published January 15th, 2010, is also available.
Just because you know it's happening, doesn't mean you'll see it coming.
In 2009 two big pictures came out in 3D. One everyone will know as the blockbuster Avatar. The other is the latest entry in a failing franchise, The Final Destination. Together, these two movies show you the full range of potential for 3D technology.
Facts of the Case
Four friends—Nick (Bobby Campo), Lori (Shantel VanSanten, One Tree Hill), Hunt (Nick Zano, What I Like About You), and Janet (Haley Webb)—are taking a break from the everyday stresses of life and have been dragged by Hunt to a NASCAR-like racing event. Everyone's bewildered why they're there, but they are nonetheless having fun. It turns out Hunt comes hoping to see crashes, and today he's in for more than he bargained. Nick has a vision of a massive crash leading to their and many others' deaths. He's able to get his friends and a few others out of the stands before the crash does occur, yet that doesn't guarantee them safety; for Death has a plan and you can't cheat Death. Death begins to hunt down the survivors, and it's up to Nick to find a way to keep everyone alive.
I'm a mild fan of the Final Destination franchise, insomuch that I own the first two movies on DVD. Their gory, out-of-left-field, Rube Goldberg deaths brought a devious smile to my face as the victims couldn't escape Death. Then there's the third installment about which I can't remember a thing except that it was really, really bad. Still, when I heard about The Final Destination I planned to go see it; but those plans fell through. I had also planned on watching my DVDs before venturing to the theater, but I only made it through the first disc. I'm sad to report that the first movie just isn't as much fun as it was a decade ago, even with Stiffler dying in quite the dramatic and nasty fashion.
When I put this Blu-ray in I still had a modicum of eagerness about me, especially with the option of watching it in 3D. And so I began watching it in 3D. And so I stopped watching it in 3D. Having seen Avatar just a few weeks back, seeing how fantastic quality 3D can be, The Final Destination is as bad as it gets. With those awful red and blue glasses, the movie is visually destroyed. While you can barely see the movie through the blue eye, what you see in the red eye is a wholly distorted film, with colors so inherently wrong your brain wants you to scream. Add to that no detail, no realism, and tons of double images; you cannot watch this movie in 3D at home. It's horrible beyond description.
And that doesn't take into account the story.
Off went the glasses and I switched the movie over to the 2D version, beginning again. Ah, much, much better. I could finally watch the movie and give the story a chance. Too bad the writers didn't give any effort to their work because this movie makes no attempt to make any sense, expand the cheating Death concept, or have any fun. Everything feels a bit amateurish with the weak story, bad acting, dour tone, and iffy special effects. It's hard to immerse yourself in the death and mayhem when it's just lazily and weakly done. Granted we are talking about the Final Destination series, but at least the other movies made an attempt to have a decent script, acceptable acting, and quality special effects. This movie is just a half-baked effort.
Though mentioned first, let's ignore the weak script. That's a common occurrence in the horror/slasher genre. Instead, let's focus on the three glaring problems with the movie. First, Nick is our visionary, saving people from harm. We have a person like him in all the films, but why does he keep having vision after vision after vision? I prefer the "one shot" at saving yourself and then being on constant vigilance, afraid to move for fear of a paper clip decapitating you. Here instead we get constant visions offering constant clues, yet they never help in saving anybody. It's a wasted effort. Second, we have characters we don't care about in the least. (Sorry, I couldn't totally steer away from the faulty script.) Who cares if Hunt dies? He's a colossal jerk. His girlfriend? Nick's girlfriend? Nick? You don't like any of them—not to mention the people he originally saves—so you look forward to them dying. And lastly, the special effects completely ruin the moment. They all look fake to varying degrees, and you can never buy the action in front of you. Sometimes it's bad blue screen (matting) but most often it's just bad CGI. It's most likely a consequence of doing this in 3D, but in either case it's just bad.
I've already somewhat touched on the video transfer, but let's take a step back and cover the transfers more thoroughly. Clearly you cannot watch the 3D with any semblance of realism and accuracy. The faux dimensionality absolutely skews and ruins every facet of measure possible. If you're watching the 3D version on Blu, you're only in it for the cheap effects. But on the 2D side we have a most pleasing 2.40:1, 1080p transfer that showcases rich, accurate colors, deep blacks, and an incredible level of detail. It's not a top-of-the-line Blu but it's an excellent release that shines. My only nitpick is that during the opening racing scenes, I noticed several instances where the cars did not move completely smoothly across the screen; I noticed a bit of stutter or jerkiness in their movements.
Faring better is the DTS-HD Master Audio mix. It is loud, boisterous, aggressive, and in your face. The sound mixers had a field day with this one putting every slam, bang, whiz, and boom possible into the channels. You'll have all sorts of noises zipping around you with the surrounds, the LFE will do the requisite wall shaking, yet the dialogue will never be lost in the shuffle. If you want loud, then here's your disc.
I was pleased to discover in the bonus feature menu that there wasn't a commentary track. Yeah, I didn't have to watch the movie again! Instead there's a surprising weak lineup of special features for you to peruse. You start off with the best of the lot, "Body Count: The Deaths of The Final Destination" (22:07). Here seven of the eleven major deaths will be analyzed to show you how they were done. It made me realize that a lot more work went into the deaths than the special effects finally realized. Next up is "The Final Destination: Racecar Crash" (5:00). Broken down into three parts—"Storyboards" (1:39), "Pre-Viz Animatics" (1:17), and Visual Effects (2:24)—this featurette goes into decent detail on the big crash. The best part is the last, the visual effects review. Following the exact same pattern is "Mall Explosion" (6:04, broken down as 2:40/1:37/1:46) that details the big mall explosion. (Oops, spoiler!) Moving on we have nine Deleted Scenes (7:16), most of which detail alternate deaths; next are two Alternate Endings (3:33); and last is a sneak peak at the new A Nightmare on Elm Street (1:59), which is interesting but too short.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I will concede that during the 10 minutes of hideous 3D viewing that there were a few moments of decent 3D stuff. But it wasn't enough to overcome all the other problems that those glasses caused.
I will also concede that some of the death sequences really do ratchet up the tension. As the pieces fall into place you know something bad is going to happen, but it's nicely stretched out to maximize the moment.
I must also point out that The Final Destination has some appalling acting from the secondary and background actors. I guess nobody had the time or money to get another shot or two…or they just weren't paying attention.
"Disappointing" is an apt word for this fourth entry in the franchise, but it's not necessarily the best word. I don't believe anyone expected great things from the movie, yet it still misses lowered expectations. It's a decent, serviceable film that has a few moments of quality suspense, waiting for Death's icy visit. But a lame story, bad acting, and lousy special effects take even the most casual and forgiving viewer out of the moment. I've seen worse films, and I believe this one is a decent Friday night rental.
The Final Destination is hereby found guilty of failing to use a turn signal.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
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